After more than two weeks of racing, and even after a second rest day, the effort was beginning to show for a lot of teams. With Sagan and Majka holding both the Maillot Vert and Maillot à Pois, and Roman Kreuziger sitting just outside the top ten on GC, there's still much to the Tinkoff team to fight for.
By the end of a tough stage, Sagan increased his lead in the points competition, while Majka took another top three finish, adding to his climbers’ points total in the process.
With the rest day allowing the riders a chance for a little recovery, it was back to full gas racing for stage 17 of the Tour. The 184km stage, which took place entirely in Switzerland, saw riders cross three categorised climbs before a Hors Catégorie finish. While these two final climbs were where the action was likely to take place, the previous 150km would wear riders down, the parcours making the most of what the Swiss terrain had to offer.
After several early attacks, as well as a crash, the attack of the day went out after 80km. With two Tinkoff riders in the break, Majka and Sagan, it was clear that points were the plan for today’s stage, with Sagan looking for the intermediate sprint points at the foot of the Col de la Forclaz and Majka on the hunt for points to strengthen his position as King of the Mountains.
The break quickly built up a strong advantage, with Majka taking points on each of the day’s climbs, and Sagan adding to his lead in the Maillot Vert contest taking the full 20 points in the sprint. With Sagan’s job done, he dropped away from the breakaway, while Majka’s group became a trio as the Hors Catégorie climb put the hurt into the break.
Tinkoff Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, saw the efforts made to support each other to gain the points as the UCI World Champion pulled hard to support the Polish national road champion.
“We saw a super strong Peter who helped Rafa in the break. Peter did a terrific job, as did the rest of the team, with everyone committed to get Rafa out front to pick up more points for the mountains jersey,” said De Jongh.
“Today, Peter brought me into the breakaway. He's a machine and was pulling on the climbs so that I could take the points too.
"He was so strong today, respect to him and also to my team-mates who helped me a lot. I need to win this jersey for my team-mates, my team and for Oleg (Tinkoff). He has supported us for five years and we want to take these jerseys to Paris for him.” - Rafal Majka
Sagan was eager to work for his team-mate today, as he explained after the stage. “We wanted to try today, I told him, 'We will see if I can do my best to get you in the break'.
“We were trying for the first 60km on the flat but then the breakaway went after the first climb, so it was hard for me to control the race on the flat and then also the climb. But I'm very happy he got some points for the mountains jersey, and I got some more points for my jersey too,” said Sagan, who now leads the green jersey competition by nearly 200 points.
Having done his job to take the climbers’ points, Majka then set about climbing at his own pace, securing a podium finish and the associated points on the line. The 10.4km-long climb at 8.4 per cent was tough on all the riders, and with the steepest sections at the top, riders crossed the line one by one.
At the finish, the King of the Mountains couldn’t help but smile about how his Tour had gone. “I'm happy, not disappointed,” said Majka.
“I've been in the break six times now this Tour de France which isn't easy already. Maybe I've often lost the victory but I have now a lot of points for the KOM jersey. Congratulations to (stage winner, Ilnur) Zakarin, he was stronger today, and I'm always suffering after the rest day. There are still two hard stages for me and I'll try everything.”